INDIAN doctors have sent SOS messages asking for oxygen as wards are on the verge of collapse.
The country is battling the “worst in the world” coronavirus epidemic, with dying Covid patients lining up on stretchers outside hospitals.
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On Friday, India reported more than 332,730 new infections, the highest daily pandemic in the world for the second consecutive day.
Cases on the rise are pushing health services to their limits, with scarce medical oxygen and understaffed and overflowing hospitals.
ICUs are filled with nearly every ventilator in use, and doctors are left with no choice but to ask for help on social media.
A hospital, which is treating 500 Covid patients, warned Friday of an impending crisis.
Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi said: “The oxygen will last another two hours”.
He added that he feared another 60 of his sickest patients were at risk, after 25 died in the past 24 hours.
Thankfully two hours later an emergency oxygen delivery arrived, but the shortage is so severe that it provided only temporary relief.
And in the evening, hospitals elsewhere had not received any help.
A large chain of private hospitals in the capital, Max Hospital, tweeted that one of its facilities had an hour of oxygen in its system.
It said: “We are sorry to report that we will suspend any new hospitalization of patients in all of our hospitals in Delhi until the oxygen supplies stabilize.”
Two days earlier, he had petitioned the Delhi High Court saying hospitals were running out of oxygen, endangering the lives of 400 patients, including 262 being treated for Covid-19.
And at the Indian Spinal Injuries Center in New Delhi there are only 30 minutes of oxygen left to treat 160 Covid patients.
A doctor who works in a separate government hospital in South India, who wished to remain anonymous, said things are so bad that “the patients are trying to beat the doctors.”
He told the BBC: “They are blaming the doctors for everything and even the [hospital] the management also blames the doctors. It is a stressful environment.
“At the moment we have used almost 99% of the oxygen ports – there is only 1% left. It is a very pathetic situation.”
Akhil Gupta was waiting for a bed for her 62-year-old mother, Suman, after she tested positive for the virus on April 2 and had difficulty breathing.
For the next two days, his other children, Nikhil and Akhil, drove around the city of Delhi visiting each hospital in search of a bed.
They managed to find one after a visit to the emergency room at the Max Hospital in Patparganj, where she was temporarily put on oxygen while waiting in line for a bed to open inside.
But doctors are now asking her children to take her away because oxygen supplies are running low.
Sky News captured similar scenes showing lines of people lying on stretchers outside an overcrowded hospital in the capital.
Police have even been employed to patrol ward entrances to prevent desperate families from stealing oxygen.
Atul Gogia, a frontline doctor in Delhi, told BBC Radio 4 today: “It’s really, really very hectic, both physically, mentally, emotionally, it’s a busy day.
“Everything is full, we are overworked, the staff are catching the disease, so we are also short staffed.
“We have oxygen, but it is now on a daily basis. There is such a big wave that we have no emergency room seats.
“We don’t have enough oxygen points, patients come in with their own oxygen, others without.
“We want to help them but there aren’t enough oxygen beds or points, and not enough oxygen to provide them even if there were.”
The country’s overall coronavirus death toll is 186,920, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
The bodies are cremated at night – contrary to the Hindu custom which dictates not to burn bodies after sunset – to cope with the backlog.
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The arrest is so bad that families have to wait hours at 35 ° C before they can cremate their loved ones and the funeral pyres are sending smoke into the sky non-stop.
It comes when Britain finally imposes a travel ban, adding India to the UK’s official coronavirus travel red list.
Passengers on flights arriving in the UK from India must now enter hotel quarantine.